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Professor John Bennett responded to the recent Brainzooming long list blog post on 26 ways to leave a trail of genius. He wondered about why we write long list posts and how we expect readers will use them.

John’s question and the personal and student examples he shared deserved something more than a comment response, thus this blog.

Long-Lists

3 Reasons Why We Write Long List Posts

Before sharing how we expect readers might use long lists, it is worthwhile to highlight why we write them based on both reader AND writer preferences:

  • Readers gravitate toward list posts. Every year, the most-visited Brainzooming posts are invariably filled with long lists. We’ve hypothesized previously about how a long list of possibilities gives readers a chance to find SOMETHING they can embrace and do.
  • A mega list challenges me personally to see if a subject stands up to use. Is the underlying concept productive enough to generate many possibilities or does it fizzle out quickly after just a few ideas?
  • Long list posts are SOMETIMES easier to write. The long list prompting John’s question was a spur of the moment idea to take advantage of potential writing time while sitting around during my mother-in-law’s recent hospital stay.

There may be other reasons (because three reasons aren’t very many), but let’s leave it at that!

5 Ways Readers Might Use Mega List Posts

How do we recommend readers use mega list posts – at least ones on the Brainzooming blog?

Here are five ideas:

  • Readers can see if they are already doing some of the ideas. That can make them feel better about how smart / motivated / proactive they are.
  • If they aren’t doing much about the list’s subject, having many options provides plenty of possibilities to find one or two things to start doing.
  • Readers might discover the inspiration for new and even better ideas than the long list blog post contains.
  • They might realize the list’s core topic is one they should embrace as something important.
  • Readers could use a long list blog post as a checklist for changing things about themselves or what they do over time.

How Do You Use Long Lists in Blog Posts?

That’s what I think you might be doing with long list blog posts. Is that anywhere close to reality?

If not, then WHAT ARE you doing with them? John and I would like to know! – Mike Brown

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When you are repetitively good, people describe you as “perennial.”

When you are repetitively “bad,” people label you (or you label yourself) as “chronic.”

A chronic complainer.

A chronic loser.

Chronically ill.

When you are a perennial, there is something either innate to you or in your environment (or both) that communicates the faith you and others have in your ability to sustain solid performance year after year.

When you are chronic, however, there is something in your environment or inside you preventing you from getting out of the rut where you find yourself.

If a bad condition is temporary, it is just a matter of finding a remedy, cure, or solution to get past it.

When it is “chronic,” however, it implies all you can do is try to manage the bad situation so it does not get much worse – since it is not likely to get appreciably better.

If you’ve been saddled with “chronic” and you think or hope there might be some way – ANY way – to change the implication that all you can do is manage to not get worse, do anything you can to try and change it.

Why?

Because chronic sucks, my friends. Chronic sucks. – Mike Brown

 

 

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I am not a big Rudy Giuliani fan. Recent personal events, however, have me thinking about two messages from a closing keynote Rudy Giuliani delivered at a customer conference I produced back in my Fortune 500 days.

Giuliani-Stage

The two messages struck me strongly, and I have tried to adopt both of them into my strategic planning since; one is professional, and one is very personal.

How do you handle the unimaginable in strategic planning?

The professional message came through his discussion of 9-11 that took place several years before our conference. Rudy Giuliani said when the attack and collapse of the World Trade Center buildings happened, New York City had no strategic plans ready for what to do if two planes fly into the World Trade Center and they collapse.

What the city did have were various plans for things that were happening in the aftermath of the collapse. The strategic thinking key was putting the other plans together and executing them rapidly to address the crisis.

For Brainzooming, that means embracing the idea of rapid strategy planning and development to create mini-plans.

Rather than developing overly elaborate strategic plans with too many assumptions about the future and too many critical moving parts, we are oriented to create more streamlined, straightforward strategic planning documents. These strategic plans are quicker to prepare, allowing us to create more of them to accommodate a greater variety of things that might happen. They can also be more readily adapted, improving the effectiveness of strategic planning

What is optional, and what is mandatory?

The other lingering lesson from the Rudy Giuliani keynote speech was that when it comes to attending events, weddings are optional, but funerals are mandatory.

Funeral

Previously, I found excuses for not attending funerals I should have attended in order to support friends and family members. It was always too easy to say work responsibilities or travel prevented attending.

Since then, although far from having a perfect attendance record, I have made a concerted effort to travel to funerals I’d have found easy excuses to miss previously, including one this past weekend.

Not once have I ever regretted making decisions to attend these funerals, but I absolutely do have regrets over ones I did not.

Thinking about all the speakers I have seen before and after, two big, memorable, and actionable lessons from one keynote seems remarkable.

I’m so thankful for hearing both of them when I did. – Mike Brown

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I found this picture while cleaning off my iPad (yes, this one too). It was from a creating strategic impact workshop. While discussing project management techniques, I used it to show how to develop project management strategies when dealing with unpredictable people in business.

Working-With-People

Putting the range of predictability (from low to high) on the Y-axis, the X-axis conveys how “good for business” someone might be, from low to high.

Sizing up someone you work with regularly in these two areas helps develop a strategy to build and strengthen the working relationship to maximize its effectiveness.

Project Management Techniques – The 4 Types of People on Your Team

Obviously, the best situation (upper right quadrant) is someone whose business behaviors are predictable, and the person is good for business. We LOVE them! These are the people to recruit for any project you are leading.

In the lower right quadrant, you have people who exhibit productive business behaviors but do so unpredictably. They may not always finish things, could be prone to running late, or aren’t always available when needed. You still want to involve them, but your project management techniques need to include anticipating what to do if they fall down when you need them. It may require getting them assignments early or having someone else available to step in if they aren’t ready to deliver when you definitely need them.

In the upper left, these people aren’t great for business, but at least they are predictable in their shortcomings. If you must include these types of people on project teams or in management groups, be ready with work arounds or other maneuvers to minimize dependencies (especially critical dependencies) related to them. This way, they won’t compromise the group’s progress.

Finally, and unfortunately, we have people who are bad for business, but unpredictably so. You can count on them messing up things (unintentionally OR intentionally), but you can’t be sure how they will do it. You want to get them off the team or out of the organization if possible, but that is not always in the cards. If you are stuck with trying to manage around them, marginalize them or handle them as you would a sociopath. (Surprisingly or not, the articles we’ve written on the topic are among some of the most viewed on the Brainzooming blog.)

During a lull in your next management meeting or project update, draw this grid and see where all your team members fit. Here’s hoping you fill up the upper right quadrant right away!– Mike Brown

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I found this picture while cleaning off my iPad. The notepad with the message, “Leave a Trail of Genius,” was from a meeting at a Marriott in Jackson, MS.

Leave-Trail-Genius-Pic

When it comes to creating strategic impact, what CAN you do to leave a trail of genius?

That doesn’t have to mean you have to be a genius, however. It simply means you have been creating strategic impact by bringing out the genius in others.

26 Ways to Leave a Trail of Genius

So what are you doing to leave a trail of genius wherever you interact?

  1. Encouraging people to use their distinctive talents to express their ideas.
  2. Teaching people things that took you a long time to learn.
  3. Asking questions of others that lead them to discover new ideas.
  4. Being able to listen to others with as much skill as you display when doling out advice to them.
  5. Encouraging others by reminding them of past successes.
  6. Seeing potential in others they don’t even realize.
  7. Knowing exactly when to push and when to let up.
  8. Introducing big possibilities without specifying all the answers for how to accomplish them.
  9. Bringing excitement to unexciting situations.
  10. Seeing new possibilities where others only see the status quo.
  11. Assembling the right team for the moment.
  12. Challenging what’s expected and expecting the challenges you’ll receive in return.
  13. Not worrying about being understood.
  14. Painting a compelling vision that stretches everyone.
  15. Creating things people haven’t even imagined before.
  16. Getting everyone focused on what matters.
  17. Experimenting all the time.
  18. Cultivating enough mystery to keep everyone intrigued and guessing.
  19. Borrowing ideas from other places that are new to what you do.
  20. Knowing how long to repeat what is working before you suddenly change it.
  21. Giving others the time and preparation to come along and be ready to perform when they need to perform.
  22. Laughing at authority figures that believe they matter much more than they really do.
  23. Trying for something bigger every time.
  24. Never learning anything from your mistakes that would make you fearful of making future mistakes.
  25. Always letting other people shine by giving them the opportunities and stages on which to perform.
  26. Cultivating just enough of the myth behind all the genius moments you leave on the trail.

That’s a start at a list for creating strategic impact. What do you do to leave a trail of genius behind you? – Mike Brown

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The creative inspiration behind today’s “few words and more pictures” post relates to how, in one way or another, we have to make daily decisions about how we handle the events and situations we face in life.

These moments of creative inspiration are all from walking the streets of San Francisco going to mass at Notre Dame des Victoires Church or coming back from dinner and walking up Nob Hill. It was my first time back in San Francisco in years. It was fun to see places that are the same, and others that have changed names, but were still recognizable from what surrounded them.

Think about clarity, perspective, and message you are sharing with the world – today, tomorrow, and all the days after that!

Be the Author of Your Own Signs

Daily-Signs

Keep Climbing, It’s Worth It

Steepest-Hills

 

Keep Clear in All Ways Possible

Keep-Clear

 

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First-time workshop questions always trigger blog posts. A new question from last week’s Outside-In Brand Innovation Brainzooming Workshop at the Brand Strategy Conference is no exception.

The intimate size of the brand innovation workshop afforded a rare opportunity. The participants decided to select one brand from among the attendees with everyone working together on outside-in innovation exercises for that brand. Using this approach with the strategic thinking questions, we created a tremendous jumpstart for a B2C brand whose brand manager admitted struggling with differentiating itself from its closest direct competitor.

The group’s responses to the strategic thinking questions and their brand innovation ideas filled many easel-sized Post-it pages.

Modifiers

7 Keys to Creating a Brand Toolkit for Brand Innovation

The voluminous poster-based output led one participant to ask what we do AFTER the strategic thinking questions and exercises to document the Brainzooming results.

That’s something I don’t typically cover in workshops, especially since most involve participants working on exercises individually.

After reviewing the poster photos to begin documenting a session, here are the next strategic thinking questions we ask ourselves to create actionable report outs:

  1. What big ideas jump off the page (or stand out in our memories) as natural big messages?
  2. What are big ideas people overlooked that should be brought to the forefront?
  3. Are there big themes that emerge when we aggregate multiple ideas from across exercises?
  4. How do we best call attention to the expected deliverables and outcomes from the workshop?
  5. If we are putting results into a table or matrix, are there obvious dimensions for organizing them? Are there less obvious dimensions to organize them in new ways?
  6. Were there any ideas that took my breath away when they were suggested? (From our Brand Strategy Conference workshop, one attendee shared an insight that could be a million dollar idea for a differentiated brand position. Those ideas make me gasp when they emerge.)
  7. Are there interesting parts of ideas that emerged during different exercises that need to be put together?

Asking and answering strategic thinking questions such as these helps develop what we characterize as a “strategic brand toolkit.” A brand toolkit (in electronic form) provides a brand manager so many possibilities for ongoing brand innovation.

Does that sound like what your brand needs?

Let’s talk about making it happen for your brand! – Mike Brown

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